Claire’s adorable sport coach will soon become a dad, that’s what motivated us to write this post.
From a purely feline point of view, a baby resembles an alien from the planet Mars. If it’s not well prepared, his arrival can cause excessive stress or anxiety in your cat, which could result in inappropriate elimination, escape behaviour during which the cat will hide, or manifestations of aggression. Indeed, your cat was there before your baby, and it’s important to do everything possible to ensure that everything goes well and that your cat doesn’t consider the baby as a threat, but as a member of his family.
In order to allow your cat to consider your baby as a possibly frequentable human, a few preliminary steps are necessary.
Several weeks before the baby arrives
Let your cat walk around the nursery, and let him be present when decorating and assembling furniture. The change has to happen gradually ; let your cat freely explore this new environment as you go.
The door of the baby’s room will be closed at times : get your cat used to the fact that this room will not always be accessible by closing the door at times when it will be closed once the baby is there.
Talc and various lotions have a very special smell. The cat universe is a world of smells, and much of his communication with his congeners goes through this channel. Apply baby products on your skin to get him used to these new smells.
Finally, a baby chirps, babbles, gargoyles, cries, yells, awkwardly gesticulates, briefly said, makes all kinds of noises and gestures: if your cat has never been in contact with very young children, you can make him listen to recordings of baby crying, first at a very low volume. If your cat stays calm, reward him with a treat. Gradually increase the volume and duration, rewarding your cat at every step. If the noise stresses him, play a while with him before playing the recording so that he creates a pleasant game-noise association.
Baby is here, congratulations ! As soon as possible, ask a person who can do it to take a blanket or suit impregnated with the baby’s smell, bring it home, and rub the places where your cat usually rubs to deposit the smell of the newborn baby before leaving the blanket or clothing in a common area (living room for example) : this will allow your cat to become familiar with the smell of the baby, and help him to identify the newcomer as a member of the family.
You will probably be overwhelmed and focused on your baby, but don’t forget your cat : he needs as much attention as before. Keep a certain routine, do not move his litterbox, his bowls or his favorite blanket. Play with him regularly, give him a few treats in the same room while you give the bottle to your baby, congratulate him every time he calmly joins you when you’re in the presence of the baby so that he associates his presence with something pleasant. Let him explore the nursery again now that it’s full of new noises and smells, and don’t force your cat to the baby : if he approaches to smell your baby, watch the maneuver calmly, but let him. Let your cat integrate all these changes at his own pace.
In any case, any interaction between your cat and your baby must be under strict supervision. Plan where your cat will have access, but not your child, right from the start, so your cat can step back when he wants, and escape the little grabbing hands. As your child grows up, teach him to respect your cat: show him how to pet him, teach him how to decode the subtle signs that show to leave the cat alone, and be ready to intervene. Even a very nice cat can scare or unintentionally hurt a child if he’s disturbed or caught off guard.
All these precautions should allow the birth of a long and beautiful friendship, in mutual respect of each other.